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Lying Politicians, Immigration Grandstanding & Organ Donation

April 30th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Okay, here are the videos from Thursday’s The Filter. As I said earlier, I was on with former city council member, Jack Weiss, who—in addition to cultural commentator Amy Alkon—is my favorite partner when I do a segment of the show.

We discussed the topics I’ve listed below.


So do we care that Meg Whitman lied about her townhall meeting ad? Steve Poizner wants us to. He has a video out pointing to Whitman’s entirely mendaciously “spontaneous” meeting.

However Poizner had his own bout of truthiness spotlighted this week on This American Life in which Ira Glass spent a long segment pointing out that Poizner’s new book about a semester spent teaching at a San Jose high school, Pleasant Valley High—a book that is figuring prominently in his campaign—was riddled with statements that are “obviously and provably untrue.”

And indeed a bit of follow-up fact checking bears this out. So why should we care? Glass tells us exactly why:

….”So many of the political discussions in our country seem so disconnected from reality. Every year there are egregious examples of politicians and commentators who believe if they repeat some non-fact over and over, it becomes true.”

And we’re sick of it. We really, really are.


Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is in favor of Los Angeles boycotting Arizona in order to protest the state’s new draconian immigration law.

(As of Thursday, the West Hollywood City Council i
s also talking about suspending all official travel to the state.)

Yes, of course, it’s a hideous, impractical, national soul-damaging law and it will be challenged in the courts, successfully, I believe. But do we really want to punish everybody in the state in order to express our displeasure with the Arizona legislature? Do I, for instance, decide not to buy Arizona writer Chuck Bowden’s new book in order to protest a law that he passionately opposes too? Or is this just so much political grandstanding?

All this and more on immigration plus a look at NY’s new proposed law pertaining to organ donation.

Posted in elections, immigration, State politics, The Filter | 40 Comments »

On KNBC’s The Filter Tonight – 7:30

April 29th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

The topics are good. Jack Weiss and I will be discussing
a couple of today’s immigration stories plus a fact-challenging squabble between Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner—and a new possible law regarding organ donation.

I’ll post the video later, but here’s the link to the online real time channel in case you want to watch it there. It’s on your TV at digital channel 4.2.

Back late tonight with more.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Jon Stewart, Gizmodo, Shield Laws and THAT Phone

April 29th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

So a guy walks into a bar in Redwood City a few weeks ago.
It’s the guy’s 27th birthday, he’s been working pretty much nonstop, so he wants to kinda blow it out. He gets hammered. He even posts on Facebook about his drinking activities. Eventually he goes home.

But he accidentally leaves behind his cell phone.

Another guy finds it, doesn’t know how to get it back to Birthday guy—or something like that. So, instead he calls up a tech website called Gizmodo and tells them about the phone. The Gizmodo editors agree to buy the lost phone for $5000.


Because the phone is the next iPhone prototype.

Gizmodo analyzes the super-secret new escaped phone, finds it very cool, and tells the world about its conclusions.

Eventually Apple asks for the phone back. Gizmodo forks it over.

That appears to be that. Until Wednesday when the drama ratchets up a bit.

The first segment of Wednesday night’s Daily Show
explains the details. It is a must watch, and very funny. Especially if one is a member of the Cult of Steve (which admittedly, I am).

However, the issue that Jon Stewart points to with his monologue is not, actually, all that funny.

What has occurred has worrisome implications for journalists.

Later on Wednesday, a pile of lawyers got involved and invoked the journalists’ shield law.

We’ll want to keep an eye on this story.

Posted in criminal justice, Life in general | 7 Comments »

The Supreme Court and the Mojave Cross

April 29th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


The LA Times has an editorial about the Mojave cross decision. It begins like this:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sent a simple — and disturbing — message in a complicated ruling about an 8-foot cross in California’s Mojave National Preserve. The message is that the government can treat the preeminent Christian symbol as a national emblem and display it on public property.

Here’s the rest.

On Wednesday, in a 5/4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the much squabbled over cross, erected years ago on federal parkland in the Mojave Desert, may stay. The cross was originally put up to honor war veterans but, for years, it has been a symbol of disagreement over the sometimes ill-defined boundary between church and state.

Here’s more back story.

Although the ruling to some degree split along the usual political lines (5/4 with Kennedy the swing vote), it was nonetheless a decision that pretty much split the baby and gave no one faction exactly what it wanted.

For instance, this is what the LA Times reported:

In a shift away from strict church-state separation, the Supreme Court gave its approval Wednesday to displaying a Christian cross on government land to honor the war dead, saying the Constitution “does not require the eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm.”

Speaking for a divided court, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the 1st Amendment calls for a middle-ground “policy of accommodation” toward religious displays on public land, not a total ban on symbols of faith.

And CNN added:

But even among the conservatives who voted to allow the cross to stand, there was strong disagreement about how similar disputes should be settled, an indication of the contentious nature of church-and-state cases.

And here is the opening of what the Wall Street Journal had to say.

It ended not with a bang, but a whimper.

What else to say about the Mojave Desert Cross opinion, handed down on Wednesday by the Supreme Court? The case could have been a contender (to quote Brando in ‘Waterfront’): it had a vivid factual setup and a great legal question concerning the separation of church and state.

But the Court on Wednesday handed down a fractured opinion with a less-than-riveting impact: the court kicked the case back to the district court for reconsideration. Even Justice Anthony Kennedy, the author of the plurality opinion, conceded the case wasn’t exactly a blockbuster. The case, according to Justice Kennedy, made no “sweeping pronouncements” on the line between church and state….

As is often the case, one of the best and fullest reports on what the court did on Wedenesday comes from NPR’s Nina Totenberg.

Posted in ACLU, Supreme Court | 6 Comments »

WellPoint and Blue Shield to Stop Health Policy Recensions

April 28th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Since 2004, at least 5,000 Californians
had their insurance policies rescinded by the state’s five largest health insurers — Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Health Net, Kaiser and PacifiCare, according to the LA Times.

Insurers have defended rescissions [cancellations of policies], saying they were trying to stop fraud. But a series of Times articles, legislative hearings, lawsuits and regulatory investigations showed that insurers often rescinded without regard for whether their customers intended to deceive them about preexisting conditions on their applications for coverage.

And the recissions, as they are called, somehow magically occurred when the policy holder got seriously ill—and needed insurance desperately.

Two major California-based insurers, however, have publicly announced that they are stopping the practice It would be nice to think that the companies suddenly developed consciences (now that corporations are people too), but the reality is they realized they had little choice, so got religion, so to speak.

Here’s what the LA Times said.

Stung by criticism and facing tougher federal regulation, two of the nation’s largest health insurers say they will stop the practice of dropping sick policyholders.

The moves Tuesday by WellPoint Inc., the parent of Anthem Blue Cross of California
, and Blue Shield of California follow action by Congress and the Obama administration to crack down on the practice known as rescission.

WellPoint Chief Executive Angela Braly said in a statement that the company’s “goal is to make reform work for our members and for the country.”

(You remember WellPoint, right? Those nice people who flagged the policy of every woman diagnosed with breast cancer in order to sift through her paperwork for a reason to rescind her coverage—and recently got publicly called out on their evildoing by Reuters. But, hey, whatever it takes.)

Read the rest. (It gets juicier.)


On Wednesday morning, the US Supreme Court is believed to be planning to hand down rulings in cases Graham and Sullivan, the two big juve LWOP Eighth Amendment cases from Florida.

I will update you when the info is out.

NOTE: Light blogging because the Society of Professional Journalists award dinner was last night—complete with a bunch of my wonderful Annenberg students showing up as a surprise. (And now I’m reviewing student papers for the last class of the semester. )

Back soon.

Posted in health care | 21 Comments »

Creepy “Gay ‘Cure’” Language Yanked from State Code

April 27th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

File this under: it’s about damned time. Here’s what the press release from Equality California said:

The California Assembly today [Monday] passed an Equality California-sponsored bill (AB2199) that would repeal a particularly offensive section of the California Welfare and Institutions code, which instructs the State Department of Mental Health to conduct research into the “causes and cures of homosexuality.” The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), passed with bipartisan support and a unanimous vote.

“Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice any more than one’s height, and neither can be changed,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California. “We are thrilled with the passage of this vital bill, as all Californians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, deserve to be treated equally and with dignity and respect.”

The code implies that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is harmful and that LGBT individuals can and should be cured, in direct contradiction with an enormous body of research that demonstrates otherwise.

“It’s discriminatory, it’s insulting and it has to go,” Lowenthal said. “Sixty years is more than long enough

Actually 60 years as way too long, but this reparative bill is a very good thing

Posted in LGBT, State government | 9 Comments »

Ousted US Prosecutor Chosen for Gitmo Inquiry

April 27th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Former US Attorney David Iglesias-
–the most high profile of the US Attorneys infamously fired by the Bush administration—has been tapped for the military war court. On Monday it was announced that Iglesias was part of the team for hearings “on whether U.S. forces tortured confessions out of a Canadian teenager accused of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan…” writes the Miami Herold.

Iglesias was part of a Pentagon prosecution team that flew on Monday to Guantánamo for hearings on the issue of whether the confessions of a Canadian teenager can be used in court when he goes to trial this summer.

You remember the case of Omar Khadr.

Khadr, 23, was captured in a July 2002 firefight near Khost, Afghanistan, in which Delta Forces Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, 28, of Albuquerque, N.M., was fatally wounded by a grenade. Khadr was 15.

Pentagon prosecutors say the Toronto-born teen threw the grenade that killed Speer as a war crime. He faces charges as an al Qaeda foot soldier and murderer; prosecutors seek life in prison, not the maximum penalty of death, in consideration of his age.

Khadr is the youngest “enemy combatant” at Guantánamo Bay today, where the Defense Department this week was holding about 183 detainees…

(Weirdly, earlier in his military law career Iglesias worked on a hazing case that became a basis for the film, A Few Good Men, starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. (“I want the truth!” “You can’t handle the truth!)

Read more.

About his Bush years, Inglesias has said, “`There was a sense that pretty much there were no rules regarding prosecution of alleged terrorists.”

Posted in Courts, crime and punishment, criminal justice | 3 Comments »

A National Criminal Justice Commission

April 27th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

On Tuesday morning a bipartisan bevy of US Congress members
will hold a press conference to announce the introduction of the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2010—Jim Webb’s bill that aims to:

…..create a blue-ribbon bipartisan commission charged with undertaking an 18-month comprehensive review of the Nation’s criminal justice system. The Commission will study all areas of the criminal justice system, including federal, state, local and tribal governments’ criminal justice costs, practices, and policies. After conducting the review, the Commission will make recommendations for changes in, or continuation of oversight, policies, practices, and laws designed to prevent, deter, and reduce crime and violence, improve cost-effectiveness, and ensure the interests of justice. The bill has been endorsed by approximately 100 organizations.

This is a very good thing. Webb’s got the right idea.

For instance, on his web site (Webb site?) he lists the following among the reasons that the bill is needed.

* With 5% of the world’s population, our country now houses 25% of the world’s reported prisoners.
* Incarcerated drug offenders have soared 1200% since 1980.
* Four times as many mentally ill people are in prisons than in mental health hospitals.
* Approximately 1 million gang members reside in the U.S., many of them foreign-based; and Mexican cartels operate in 230+ communities across the country.
* Post-incarceration re-entry programs are haphazard and often nonexistent, undermining public safety and making it extremely difficult for ex-offenders to become full, contributing members of society.

Here also, is a notable quote from Webb’s floor speech when he first introduced the bill in the spring of last year.

Let’s start with a premise that I don’t think a lot of Americans are aware of. We have 5% of the world’s population; we have 25% of the world’s known prison population. We have an incarceration rate in the United States, the world’s greatest democracy, that is five times as high as the average incarceration rate of the rest of the world. There are only two possibilities here: either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice. . . .

Webb’s clarity is heartening. But also heartening is the fact that, while strictly partisan arguments rage elsewhere in the Congress, Webb has managed to pull a pile of Republicans on to his list of sponsors both in the Senate and in the House, including people like California conservative Darrell Issa.

Posted in criminal justice | 1 Comment »

Dear Commenters

April 26th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

I’ve made a decision. I am not going to shut down comments as I believe both dialogue and community are important parts of an online news site. However, I will be instituting new rules on Monday. Breaking them will result in banning.

I have banned one person already.

Thanks for your cooperation.


Posted in Life in general | 10 Comments »

Court Challenges Gearing Up for AZ Immigration Law

April 26th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

One of the topics that repeatedly came up on various nonfiction panels at the LA Times Festival of Books,
and in casual conversation among the authors as they sat around talking between panels in the festival’s “green room,” was the news that Arizona’s draconian new immigration bill had been signed into law on Friday by the state’s governor, Jan Brewer. Much of the talk centered around the court fights that the law was going to trigger. [The full text of the bill is here.]

Over the weekend, the Arizona Republic addressed the issue of the court challenges that are readying for launch,

Here’s the opening:

With Arizona’s controversial immigration-enforcement bill now law, the battle will quickly shift from the state Capitol to the courts, where opponents plan to challenge it as an unconstitutional intrusion on federal authority and a violation of civil rights.

Proponents defend the legislation signed Friday by Gov. Jan Brewer as legally sound. But critics say the U.S. Constitution makes it clear that the federal government alone has the responsibility to enact and enforce immigration laws. Some fear other constitutional rights will be trampled through racial profiling and that vital federal money will be diverted from other national priorities.

Read the rest.

Posted in immigration | 54 Comments »

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